Day 4: Barcelona Runs on Dunkin

by Eli Hodapp

In true obsessive Eli Hodapp flying style, I arrived at the airport exactly two hours before my flight. No joke. I fly out at 1:00 PM, I walked through the doors, looked at my watch, and it was exactly 11:00 AM. I inadvertently planned that perfectly. Although, I suppose you could argue spending an hour and forty five minutes sitting at your gate isn’t entirely perfect- Especially since the Marseille airport turned out to be yet another airport with hardly any food options to speak of once you’ve made it through security.

Want a million dollar idea for an app?1 I want to be able to load something on my phone, enter an airport number, my gate number, and have it tell me what’s available past the security checkpoint. Bonus points for pulling the estimated security wait time, assuming that’s available via some kind of public API. I’ve seen airports that have weird little signs sort of like you see estimating the line length for attractions at amusement parks.

So, combine all this, and you’d know whether or not you should go through security or if that food plaza just before is your last option. Although, I suppose I could just not get to the airport stupidly early and eat beforehand, I’d probably save money too. That almost seems too easy when you could have an entirely convoluted app-centric solution instead. This is 2012, after all.

Leaving Marseille in the taxi today heading to the airport I realized another thing I really like about European cities I’ve been to. In the United States, everything just always seems to be open, within reason. Chances are if you’re out during the day and it isn’t a weird holiday, everything you’d want to do can easily be accomplished because everything either has very wide business hours, or is flat out open around the clock.

In the places I’ve been in Europe, things can just be closed half the day. I’ve been told that French law places heavy penalties on employers who have people working more than 35 hours a week, and taxes are so high anyway that it just makes more sense for you to only be open during whatever your prime hours are. For example, in Paris, there was a Thai place that only seemed to be open for a couple hours during lunch, and then a few more hours during dinner. Any other time of day and they’ve got their graffiti-covered metal shutters rolled down in the front, hiding any clue of what the place even is for the other eighteen or so hours in the day.

The metamorphosis that European streets go through is seriously just incredible. You might be wandering around in the morning, and almost feel like you’re in the wrong part of town as absolutely everything has their shutters rolled down, graffiti is everywhere, and no one is out. But then you walk down that street in the evening, and those same shutters have opened, revealing all sorts of cool cafes, shops, and who knows what else. The complete urban desolation of the day explodes into lights everywhere, signs spilling on to the sidewalk, and enough people out that you often need to step into the street to pass.

This happened in New York City, to some extent, but it never felt as drastic as it does in European cities. In New York, a lot of businesses had shutters with wide openings that you could see through. Even though things might be closed when you walked around in the morning, you still had an idea of what everything was. When I went for a run on Thursday, then walked those same streets on the way back to the hotel on Friday evening, it was like being in a different place entirely.

Anyway, I was too exhausted to write much about it yesterday but the first phase of the International Mobile Gaming Awards went off without a hitch. WiFi access left a little to be desired, but that wasn’t exactly required by any means. We all sat around a massive conference room table watching game trailers and looking at screenshots while voting on the games that should go through to the second round.

Most of the games I was already deeply familiar with, but it’s always interesting to see what others think of your favorite games, particularly ones that might be a little too American-centric for the panel of judges. One example that I thought was really slick was a fighting game that was based entirely around hockey fights. It’s a pretty ridiculous premise, but the execution seemed great. Really, the best part about hockey is fights anyway, so kudos to this developer for stripping out all the things in hockey that I don’t care about. Soccer games, on the other hand, almost always seem to make it through.

After the initial yes/no pass, we all voted on what would become the finalists for each category. I haven’t heard yet what these games actually are, but there are obvious standouts in each category that I think are safe bets. Like, I can almost promise Infinity Blade II will be in there somewhere. I’m not sure how it couldn’t be.

Well, it’s almost time to board my flight up to Munich. I’m guessing my flights were booked from Marseille up to Munich and back down to Barcelona because European airlines, like American airlines, seem to prefer flying through hubs than direct flights from smaller cities like Marseille. Still, flying due north for an hour and a half only to fly back south for two hours isn’t doing any favors for my carbon footprint.

I’ll have to drive the Prius a little more in leaf mode when I get home.


 

I now know I’m capable of running from one end of the Munich airport to the other, in leather soled dress shoes, with my full backpack of laptops, iPads, iPhones, camera gear, and all the associated wires to hook ’em all up. I never really wondered whether or not I was up to such a feat, but thanks to my initial flight getting in seriously late I now know for sure. I was more than a little worried about my bag also making it to the plane in time, but everything was in its proper place when I arrived at Barcelona.

I took a cab to and from the Marseille airport, mainly because I’m not really that familiar with how their public transit system works, but I’ve studied Barcelona’s metro system. This allowed for a €5,30 bus ride to Plaza Catalunya in the center of down, then a quick subway ride down to Barceloneta where I’m staying. Oh, and the best thing about Plaza Catalunya is that they have a Dunkin. It’s not quite the same as American Dunkin, but still. Dunkin.

The place I’m staying in Barceloneta seriously just couldn’t be more perfect. Barcelona is a city filled with these public squares, which amount to these massive paved clearings in the center of a bunch of little cafes, bars, whatever. The place I’m staying is directly on one of these squares, but better yet, it has a massive private terrace that overlooks all of it. It’s really cool.

The couple I’m staying with are great as well, Jonathan is a photo journalist for a local newspaper and Samaneh is an anthropologist. They’re both Danish and have an incredibly unique world view that was great to take in. I was really worried about the whole Airbnb thing being really awkward, but this is going to work out absolutely perfect. They even have cats.

So, today in a nutshell would be a night of horrible sleep combined with a day of hectic travel, only to wind up in my favorite city on the planet with two of the best hosts I could ever ask for. This will do nicely.


  1. OK, maybe a thousand dollar idea, or at least, a couple hundred dollar idea. []